As I sit and write this, there is a part of me that wishes I was reading a post with this title rather than writing it. I have to admit that I often struggle to maintain a positive frame of mind when dealing with the negativity of others. However, I am committed to cracking this one and in this post I will share with you some of the tips that I am currently using which I’m hoping when used together, will constitute a negativity-busting strategy of sorts.
I have a personal life that in the main is filled with positivity and happiness. This is something that I have worked hard to create and I’m extremely grateful for. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for my professional life. I work in a large organisation where complaint, criticism and negativity are the norm and I’d be lying if I said that this didn’t get to me on a regular basis. Below are the five tools I am currently using to help me on days when it gets a bit too much and I hope that these are also helpful to others who share a similar problem.
1. Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources that they have available to them
This probably constitutes the backbone of my strategy. ‘Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources that they have available to them’ is a presupposition of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. When I first read this sentence in my training materials a few weeks ago, it had a profound effect on me. Why? Because I think it is often quite easy to feel frustrated with people who behave in ways that conflict with our own beliefs and values. However, when you take this statement to be true the effect is extremely positive.
I sat in a meeting recently with colleagues who were pre-occupied with discussing and highlighting the inadequacies of others. Normally this would leave me feeling pretty low, but with this sentence running through my mind I was better able to understand that just because I see the wonder in positive thinking and expressing kindness to others, doesn’t mean that everyone does.
I’ve read a lot about positive thinking, mindfulness, compassion and the wonderful positive effects that these can have on us as individuals and the wider world. Just because I have done all that reading and found that these sentiments hold true for me does not mean that everyone else is or should be on the same page.
For me, showing compassion to people who are less able to be compassionate to others is the best way to deal with negativity. To feel angry and intolerant about people’s negativity is a classic example of how we can get caught up in what I call a ‘chain of negativity’.
2. Don’t be a link in the chain
I don’t and never will proclaim to be a person who is consistently positive; in fact I’d go as far as to say that in certain situations I find it a real struggle to maintain positivity. Complaining at work is probably my greatest vice and I think that it’s really easy to get caught up in a habit of complaint. I liken it to smoking in that when you have a good moan you get a very short-lived feeling of gratification but afterwards and in the long-term it makes you feel terrible.
Ironically, I have often left a difficult and challenging meeting only to find myself complaining about the negative complaints of others. Negativity can be contagious and whilst like a cigarette to a smoker is tempting, the more I stop myself from following suit the better I feel and the better it must be for those around me. By not being negative as a reaction to negativity hopefully I break the chain at least in that moment.
3. Be up front about your feelings
At work I recently tried something. Every time someone started to engage in moaning about a fellow colleague I simply said: “I’ve made a decision not to moan about other people behind their backs.” The reaction I got to this was great, whilst some people laughed because they thought it was too difficult, I could also see that some people considered it more deeply and even wondered about the purpose behind what I was doing. Interestingly nobody said that they thought what I was doing was wrong.
This is helpful for me because I think it will make people think twice about complaining to me about things and also it will make me feel less uncomfortable about not joining in a moaning session in the future.
4. Remove yourself from the situation
There are times and places when you can be as positive as you like to little or no effect and ultimately the most important thing is to keep yourself sane. I know that working where I do is taking it’s toll on me and that continuing to work everyday in a culture of negativity will eventually wear me down, hence my plans to change my working situation. I would suggest that if it is possible to remove yourself from a negative situation to do so. Ultimately, only we can take responsibility for our lives and the positivity and happiness therein.
5. Know that you can’t change other people
I sometimes find it easy to get seduced by the idea that by changing myself I can change other people, i.e. that if I am a positive person all of the time then those around me will start to be positive too. It’s this misguided belief that gets me in trouble. I’m not saying that positive behaviour doesn’t have a positive impact because I believe it does but if we start to believe we can change the behaviours of others then I think we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere.
I believe that the only thing we have control over is ourselves, our own reactions, our own behaviours and our own thoughts and words. The more positive these are the more positive reactions we are likely to receive but we cannot control the behaviours and thoughts of others and accepting this has been truly liberating, for me. Ultimately, it means I only have to worry about working on myself rather than numerous others, which is somewhat of a relief!
I’m sure there are a hundred other tips out there so if you have one, please do share it in a comment below and if you like what I’ve written on this topic please do share it, in the hopes of creating a chain of positivity.